The voice of conscience

Amal Chatterjee
8 min readJun 1, 2018

Synopsis: Those of us who have the voice of conscience often do not realize its power to bring about meaningful changes in our communities, our government and our country. This voice of conscience often has a price one has to pay to be heard .Those who pay the price are not ordinary people but extraordinary ones who leave behind them a legacy that no one can match easily.

The voice of conscience

Source : Google photo of Ai Wei Wei

Sages have always said that the inner voice of conscience is very powerful and helps guide the humanity in a positive way by speaking out against the wrong doers in this world. They represent all that is good in people and collectively can stand up against the evil forces that tend to dominate our societies everywhere.

It can often be the lone voice of a person who suffers in the hand of evil doers who want to suppress such voice because they are morbidly afraid of him. They recognize the power of good over evil so naturally they want to silence him, put him in jail for speaking out against them and silence the voice but as history tells us, they always fail because the world hears the pitiful lone voice from his jail cell.

Vir Savarkar was kept in isolation and tortured daily in his jail by his jailer in Andaman for speaking out against the British occupation of India and was prevented by his jailer to communicate with the outside world but they all failed. His doctor was sympathetic because he treated Savarkar with compassion each time he was ill-treated and agreed to smuggle out his notes to send to England where it came to light in the News Papers there.

The British authorities claimed that they knew nothing of what was going on inside the notorious jails of Andaman and ordered a thorough probe that resulted in the sacking of the cruel jailer to be replaced by one who treated the prisoners humanely and brought about many positive changes there including the release of Savarkar who was then allowed to return home in India.

Such lone voices represent a very powerful force that the wrong doers are very afraid of and try their best to silence them but they do not know that the weak and fearful voices of oppressed are heard loud and clear everywhere and people galvanize into collective actions that result in the overthrow of brutal regimes and dictators.

Mandela never realized that his voice was heard everywhere and people all over the world clamored for his release that finally resulted in the end of apartheid and made South Africa free. Often it takes many years of incarceration and suffering before their voices are heard and people wake up to notice that a very wrongful detention of a courageous person like Mandela can no longer be ignored so they protested.

It was the lone voice of a beloved writer in France who wrote about the torture and detention of Djamila Boupacha that woke up people in France and forced De Gaulle to give Algeria its freedom although Djamila herself was detained and prevented from speaking out by her jailers.

When Netaji Bose was put under house arrest by the British, little did they know that one day he will be the cause of their downfall and leave India. Even Bose himself did not realize the power he had in his lean body that took on a mighty empire of England practically singlehandedly and brought it down to gain freedom for India. Such lone voices of conscience have a mettle that surpasses imagination and comprehension because they are not born to self-aggrandize and in fact are very simple and humble people.

If you look at the artist Ai Wei Wei, you cannot imagine how loudly his voice is heard around the world that his government tries so hard to suppress.

I call it the voice of conscience. Most decent, religious, honest, hardworking, selfless people have it and will speak out at the peril of their own safety because their conscience will not allow them to be silent so they speak out and pay the price.

The evil doers have always existed and will always exist because they take advantage of a situation and profit from it. If there is a political vacuum and chaos, they will quickly step in and take advantage because they do not have a conscience that guides them to do what is right. So an unelected person becomes the leader through military coup or voter’s fraud, intimidation and elimination of the opposition.

We see such persons even in so-called democratic countries where good people will not, cannot or may not come forward to become leaders so a vacuum is created that is then filled by the wrong people.

We see them in the local communities where bad people occupy position that gives them financial advantages so they start using the public money for their own use because they feel that they are not accountable.

In Haiti the Duvaliers used the public money as their own and bankrupted the economy until they were forced to leave. The same thing happened in Zimbabwe.

So today I write about a strong force called the voice of conscience and try to understand why seemingly weak and oppressed people one day take a stand against evil and put their own lives in danger by speaking out. The journalists do it every day at the risk of their lives. Hundreds of such courageous people have been murdered in countries around the world who dared to expose the wrongdoers and paid the ultimate price with their lives.

Hundreds of simple people lined up to enter the salt works run by the British in India to be stopped at the gate by the guards who beat them with batons to crack their skulls but they kept on coming the whole day, such was their commitment to the nonviolent protest to liberate India from the tyranny of the British.

The peaceful protesters in Jalianwala Bagh in Amritsar were gunned down in cold blood by a British general who ordered the massacre and said that every bullet must count so more than 1600 bodies of men, women and children piled up causing a worldwide uproar and the British government was put to shame. My Lai massacre pales in comparison to such atrocities but the collective voice of conscience urged all Indians to continue to protest against the British rule that Bose channeled into armed resistance that scared the British to no end and left India.

This voice is present whenever something wrong is being done. People express this voice of conscience when they get a chance to vote and remove a bad person from the office but face many challenges in doing so. Bad people are not easy to remove through clean and honest election because they rig the process in their favor. Those who tend to benefit from a rigged election then become the ardent supporter of their leader who then appoints them to good positions to safeguard his own.

Just dole out generous compensation to all who support you, bribe the military, police and the judiciary and you can safely stay in power for a long time. If the constitution does not allow it then just change the constitution to make you a lifelong president. People do not count and the Ai Wei Weis are so few and rot in jail that the wrong doers feel omnipotent forever.

That is what Saddam Hussein thought but he was not the only one. There is a long list of evil people who thought that they could rule with impunity with no accountability but history has proven them all wrong.

It is because there is this tiny voice coming out of weak people that amplifies itself in silent jail cells and from the crowd of peaceful protesters facing the guns in Sharpeville or Jalianwala bagh that says that we the people with conscience cannot be silenced by guns and goons.

It is the same voice that brought out millions of people, old and young, men and women to the streets of America who protested the unjust war in Vietnam that put pressure on Nixon to withdraw the troops from there that speeded up the process of ending the war there.

People in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are also crying out in anguish but no one seems to care. If 60000 Americans did not die in Vietnam, they too would not have cared if people were killing each other so this voice of conscience is often tainted by self-interest. If Cronkite did not bring the war of Vietnam to their living rooms every night in graphic details including the death toll of Americans then people would not have cared what happened there.

So we the good people have a conscience that urges us on to do what is right not some of the time but all the time. This is why I respect the Green Peace people who are trying to so hard to protect the whales and other sea mammals. This is why I respect the Native Americans who are protesting the pipeline through their territories that is harmful to them. This why I salute Malala who took a bullet to prove that her cause of education for all is just and worth fighting for.

I salute all courageous reporters who risk daily their lives to report wrongdoings in their countries and so many end up dead. Who remembers them after a few weeks and months except their loved ones who mourn them for life?

The human conscience is a powerful tool to fight evil everywhere but often its power is underestimated by those who commit crimes and steal public money. No one believed that a simple housewife in a yellow dress could inspire millions to come out to topple a dictator here but it happened. It also happened in Haiti where I was at the time but not peacefully .

What we should all do is to listen to our conscience and try to understand what it tells you and have the courage to follow it up through peaceful means. The cowards will always back down in the end when they face such pure energy of the good in people so listen to your voice of conscience and try to make this world a better place not only for us but for the generations to come.

People may someday forget you and your own contributions but will never deny that the voice of conscience is something we should all strive to listen to.

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